HE’S big, really big; even bigger than I’d been anticipating when he’s standing close up.
“Just how tall are you?” I ask.
“How tall do you think?” he fires back at me with a smile and laughs when I guess right.
I like that. Jake Hull is giving his first proper media interview and he’s got a bit about him. He’s only 19 but the limelight isn’t fazing him.
Wearing his black, club-issue tracksuit, the centre-half is pitchside at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday night last week discussing his senior debut and the 6-0 EFL Trophy win over derby rivals Doncaster Rovers that has gone with it.
He’s scored as well, in the second half from a Dan Barlaser corner. Actually, he might not have scored, because his reaction was a bit sheepish when he was taking his teammates’ congratulations, but he’s quickly putting the matter to rest.
“Yeah, it’s my goal,” he says, partly because manager Paul Warne has told him to claim it. “Dan’s whipped it in and it’s flicked off my back.
“The reason I didn’t celebrate, if everyone’s wondering, is because I was a bit dumbstruck that I’d scored on my debut. It was a massive feeling; brilliant. It’s what you dream of as a kid.”
The teenager is on loan at National League North side Guiseley, where he is a regular starter, but still spends much of his week training with the Millers’ first-team squad and is eligible for Trophy matches.
Rotherham want him to be roughed up in non-league as part of his development, but the former Sheffield United trainee has already had a taste of that at Roundwood.
“In training, you’ve got Smudge (striker Michael Smith),” he says. “They don’t really come much stronger than him.
“I’m really enjoying it at Guiseley. It’s men’s football, Last year I had a little stint at Matlock Town (Northern Premier League) but I got to play only one game because of the Covid situation.
“I came back here and I was just training and training. There was nothing on a Saturday to build up to so that was a bit frustrating.
“The lads I’m coming up against are really big and physical and I think that will stand me in good stead when I come back to Rotherham.”
The youngster needs to add some weight to his rangy frame but he’s a natural athlete and not far off the top performers when the Millers do their training runs.
At the Keepmoat, he’s been waiting patiently on the touchline for his chance to speak. His manager, Paul Warne, has gone first and the player’s name is quick to crop up.
“Jake’s attitude is spot-on,” the boss says. “He’s always listening, always trying to learn and he is probably a Rotherham type of centre-half. He is big and strong.
“He needs to work on a few things but he is progressing nicely and tonight won’t have done him any harm.”
The Mosborough-based defender has been with Rotherham since he was 16, having spent ten years with the Blades, and in August 2020 signed a 12-month pro contract which has since been extended to next summer.
“The gaffer talks to me a lot,” he says. “It’s not like I’m getting dragged into his office to talk about stuff, but he’s a good person and likes to talk to people. He likes to talk to all his players.
“The rest of the coaching staff and the physical team are great as well. It’s a good atmosphere to be in.”
Hull is so tall that the floodlights winking away in the background almost have to compete for air space. The voice is deep, well-rounded and fits well with his stature.
He’s nervous enough before the interview begins to enquire what kind of questions he’ll be facing but once the cameras roll and the voice recorders are switched on he’s as smooth and in control as he was throughout the group-stage contest.
“A clean sheet is obviously good,” he says. “That’s the main aim for the back three or five. Everything that comes after that is a bonus. If you keep the ball out of the net you’re guaranteed a result.”
Warne adds: “It is good for us, as coaches, to see in these games whether Jake can step up. He was virtually faultless apart from once in the first half when he didn’t move the ball quickly enough.
“We want him to be as good as he can be. I said to him after the game: ‘I know how hard it is to play for me.’ We are driving standards all the time.
“He is training with a really good group of pros who are helping him and he is seeing how hard you have to work to get into the team. He is giving himself a great chance of a career.”
There’s something else I like as well. Hull, who has fellow Millers teenager Jacob Gratton for company out on loan, isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“The aim right now is to return from Guiseley a better player,” he says. “I’ve just got to keep on improving. These EFL Trophy games are a massive bonus for me.
“I’ll just keep on going at Guiseley, trying to be the best player on the pitch in every game, and then see where I stand in January when I come back.
“It’s good to have Gratts there as well. Me and him can get in the car together and talk about the game and review how it’s gone.
“We come back here and train with the first team, which is good. We’re not out of sight, out of mind. We can work hard here and at Guiseley at the same time.”
Hull was Man of the Match in the Guiseley side that lost 2-0 at home to Kettering Town in the sixth tier of English football last Saturday and this weekend has an FA Cup trip to Colne in Lancashire to look forward to.
“When you go into non-league, players have got a bit more nous about them than when you’re playing in youth-team games,” he says.
“You’re not playing against idiots, they’re good players. People’s money is at stake at the end of the day. Players get win bonuses and that can really help out their families. There’s a lot of pressure in every single game.”
On the Millers beat, meanwhile, he pauses and reflects on what a huge step he’s just taken.
“I’ve been playing since I was five,” he says. “To make my professional debut is a big achievement for me and my family. To score as well, I’m pretty lost for words, to be honest.”
He walks away, his size receding with each step. But even in the distance he’s still big, really big.
Six foot six inches, by the way.